from a judgment of the circuit court for Milwaukee County:
WILLIAM SOSNAY, Judge.
Stark, P. J., Hruz and Seidl, JJ.
This appeal requires us to address the following issue: can
an employee of a temporary help agency who has been injured
in the course of his or her employment and who has not made a
worker's compensation claim bring a tort claim against
his or her temporary employer? Based on the plain language of
the relevant statutes, we conclude the answer to this
question is yes.
As explained below, the exclusive remedy provision of the
Worker's Compensation Act ("the Act"), WIS.
STAT. § 102.03(2) (2015-16),  does not bar a temporary
employee from bringing tort claims against his or her
temporary employer. WISCONSIN STAT. § 102.29(6)(b)1.,
which specifically addresses tort claims by temporary
employees against their temporary employers, bars such claims
only where the temporary employee "makes a claim for
compensation" under the Act. It therefore follows that a
temporary employee who has not made a claim for compensation
under the Act is permitted to pursue a tort claim against his
or her temporary employer. Moreover, even if the employee at
issue in this case is construed as a loaned employee, rather
than a temporary employee, we still conclude the Act does not
bar his estate's tort claims. We therefore reverse the
circuit court's decision granting summary judgment to
Alpine Insulation, the temporary/borrowing employer in this
case, and its insurer, West Bend Mutual Insurance Company.
The following facts are undisputed. On August 21, 2014,
Carlos Esterley Cerrato Rivera and two other individuals died
in a single-vehicle accident. Rivera was survived by five
children, two of whom were minors at the time of his death.
At the time of the accident, Rivera was a passenger in a
vehicle owned by Alpine and insured by West Bend. The vehicle
was traveling from one Alpine job site to another. Rivera was
employed by Alex Drywall, which, in turn, had provided him to
perform work for Alpine. Alpine paid Alex Drywall for
Rivera's services, and in turn, Alex Drywall paid Rivera
for his work. The vehicle's driver was a temporary
employee of Alpine, which had retained him through JC
Staffing, a temporary help agency. The driver was negligent
in his operation of the vehicle, and his negligence was a
cause of the accident.
In February 2016, Rivera's two minor children and Raoul
Ehr, as special administrator of Rivera's estate,
commenced the instant wrongful death lawsuit against Alpine
and West Bend in Milwaukee County Circuit
Court. The Estate's complaint sought damages
for Rivera's pain and suffering and for his minor
children's loss of society, companionship, and support.
The Estate has not filed a claim for worker's
compensation under the Act, although it is undisputed the
Estate has the right to do so.
Alpine and West Bend answered the Estate's complaint and
later moved for summary judgment. In support of their motion,
Alpine and West Bend argued Alex Drywall, Rivera's
employer, was a temporary help agency. They asserted that,
because Rivera was an employee of a temporary help agency,
the Estate was prohibited from bringing a tort action against
Alpine-an employer that compensated Alex Drywall for
Rivera's services-under WIS. STAT. § 102.29(6)(b)1.
The circuit court agreed and granted summary judgment in
favor of Alpine and West Bend. The Estate now appeals.
Standard of review
We independently review a grant of summary judgment, using
the same methodology as the circuit court. Hardy v.
Hoefferle, 2007 WI.App. 264, ¶6, 306 Wis.2d 513,
743 N.W.2d 843. Summary judgment is appropriate if there is
no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. WIS. STAT. §
802.08(2). Here, the material facts are undisputed, and the
only issue on appeal is whether the Act prohibits the Estate
from bringing tort claims against Alpine. "The
interpretation and application of a statute to an undisputed
set of facts are questions of law that we review
independently." McNeil v. Hansen, 2007 WI 56,
¶7, 300 Wis.2d 358, 731 N.W.2d 273.
When interpreting a statute, our objective "is to
determine what the statute means so that it may be given its
full, proper, and intended effect." State ex rel
Kalal v. Circuit Court for Dane Cty., 2004 WI 58,
¶44, 271 Wis.2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110. Our analysis begins
with the plain language of the statute. Id.,
¶45. "Statutory language is given its common,
ordinary, and accepted meaning, except that technical or
specially-defined words or phrases are given their technical
or special definitional meaning." Id. In
addition, statutory language must be interpreted "in the
context in which it is used; not in isolation but as part of
a whole; in relation to the language of surrounding or
closely-related statutes; and reasonably, to avoid absurd or
unreasonable results." Id., ¶46. Statutes
should also be construed "so that no word or clause
shall be rendered surplusage and every word if possible
should be given effect." State v. Martin, 162
Wis.2d 883, 894, 470 N.W.2d 900 (1991) (quoting Donaldson
v. State, 93 Wis.2d 306, 315, 286 N.W.2d 817 (1980)).
"If this process of analysis yields a plain, clear
statutory meaning, then there is no ambiguity, and the
statute is applied according to this ascertainment of its
meaning." Kalal, 271 Wis.2d 633, ¶46
(quoting Bruno v. Milwaukee Cty., 2003 WI 28,
¶20, 260 Wis.2d 633, 660 N.W.2d 656). However, if the
statute is ambiguous-that is, reasonably susceptible to more
than one interpretation-we examine extrinsic sources, such as
legislative history, to ascertain the legislature's
intent. Id., ¶¶47, 50-51.
The Act's ...